Appearing for the first time on a Tyler stage, ‘Equus’ captivates its audience

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Breaking down barriers and stimulating the mind, director Felicity Enas, pushes the envelope with her production of “Equus” at Apex Theatre 20.

Many people are familiar with this play because of all the stink that arose when Daniel Radcliffe played Alan Strang, one of the leads, on Broadway in 2008. Alan is a troubled youth around whom the play centers. He has some mental issues and struggles that he must work through. The reason people got so upset about Radcliffe playing this character is because there is a brief scene with nudity. The thought of having Harry Potter up on stage naked, in front of everyone, was too much for society to handle.

The nudity is very minor, however, and Enas staged it perfectly. The nudity is not included to shock people. It simply progresses the story and shows the two characters Alan, played by Matthew James Butler, and Jill, played by Jennifer Rader, at their most vulnerable. It allows us a peek into Alan’s clouded psyche.

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The play is just as much about Alan’s psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Dysart, as it is about Alan. Chris Abraham plays the role of Dysart and carries it off with ease. The relationship between Abraham and Butler was strong and very believable. There was something natural about the way they communicated; they were real people.

Each actor had to be very versatile, as many of them played more than one character. The changes were made well, though, and each switch was believable.

The actors, staging and effects worked hand in hand as well. Upon entering the theatre you see a very minimal set: some fencing, benches and an ominous row of horse head masks lining the back wall. The lighting, changing anywhere from soft blues to harsh reds, sets the mood of the play beautifully.

Contributing to the mood was the movement of the actors playing the horses. Jill Hsu, Mike Leatherwood and Suzanne Alford blew me away with their realistic horse movements; the way they clomped their feet combined with their masks and soft whinnies really pulls you into the moment.

With everything working together, Enas created a show that envelopes the audience. She created an intimate experience where we, as the audience, felt included in the emotional and mental journey on which Dr. Dysart and Alan embark.

When asked what she hoped the audience would take away from this show, Enas said,
“I want them to think. I want them to actually talk about something that they’ve seen. Not just the play, itself, but the subject matter. Maybe it will spur conversation.”

“Equus” runs two more nights at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 25 and 26. At Apex Theatre 20 located on 719 W Front St, Suite 20. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online at www.Apextheatre20.com or at the entrance the night of the show. At 7:25 p.m. student rush opens up and any student with a valid student ID can get a ticket for $5.

Because of the material in the play, however, there is an 18 or older requirement on entrance. There is also the use of strobe lights in the performance, so viewers suffering from epilepsy, be advised.

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